They are towering personalities

We’ll miss Beckham, Fergie, Mancini and Strauss but it is good to know they are healthy and wealthy and wise and likely to be so for quite a while. By Ted Corbett.

Who will fill the personality void that has in the past few weeks left sport in my country bereft of such big names as Sir Alex Ferguson, David Beckham and Roberto Mancini?

These heroes will be replaced, make no mistake about that. The old saying “there are no celebrity football folk any more” is just a misunderstanding of the way the world works. It takes many years for a young sportsman to be recognised by the general public but someone will always turn up to replace the old stars.

I have heard the cry go up many times — when Sir Matt Busby left Manchester United, when Geoff Boycott retired, when Seb Coe ran his last race.

They have all been replaced — sometimes by lesser men, sometimes by greater sportsmen — but just as records are made to be broken so are retirements an invitation to someone to step forward.

In the last few weeks we have heard the cry repeatedly. “There will never be another manager like him,” said Bryan Robson when Ferguson announced he was stepping aside. It was repeated more recently when Beckham announced, at the advanced age of 38, that he would play no more and left the field in tears.

Mancini departed from Manchester City with a lot more dignity than he showed while he was in charge, and a generous round of thanks, after being sacked. Incidentally he was loved to the point of distraction by the club’s fans; only the money-wise, football-foolish City overlords wanted him to go.

The departure of Ferguson and Mancini has sparked a merry-go-round among the elite managers which means that we will all have to concentrate hard if we are to associate the right men with the right job next season.

No doubt they will have to work just as hard to understand their new roles, find new homes, transfer their families across continents and get to know their new staff by the time the coming season opens.

Rafael Benitez was — gratuitously in my opinion — known as Chelsea’s “interim manager” throughout his time at Stamford Bridge and denigrated by the club’s fans who disliked the way he had referred to them when he was at Liverpool.

They must be extremely thin-skinned. Only in politics, where insulting words and phrases are bandied about without regard to anyone’s feeling, is it the custom to think up the worst possible characterisation of an opponent.

Like luck and bad refereeing decisions the insults usually break even by the end of the season and then they are best forgotten.

Ferguson, who played mindgames with all his opponents, was an expert but I defy anyone to remember an occasion when he attacked his own players and for all his reputation as having a temper that could be compared to a hairdryer on full strength, he seems to have been genuinely fond of some players.

Yes, he once kicked a shoe that hit Beckham above the eye and sometimes he reduced players to tears but his affection for some was unlimited.

One was the tiny midfield general Paul Scholes, the most accurate passer of a ball in modern times. Gary Neville, also now retired, went to the edge of the field without permission. Ferguson passed the ball to Scholes and said: “Wake him up, wee man.”

Scholes sent a 50 yard pass screaming across the training ground and hit Neville hard on the backside. Ferguson was still telling the tale of this little joke years later.

Cricket retirements are so frequent and now players rarely go beyond 40 that it sometimes comes as a shock to realise that an old star is no longer on view.

I saw Andrew Strauss on a TV show recently and realised I had not noticed his absence since he quit at the end of last summer. He was still looking prosperous, still wearing that same shy smile and still chatting to anyone who introduced themselves. What a shame he felt he had to quit.

Alastair Cook, his successor, is a rather shyer guy who saves his big gestures for success on the field but like Strauss, who took over from the popular Michael Vaughan, Cook will make his way into the celebrity charts before long.

None of them can hold a candle to Beckham, long thin streak of an Essex boy when his career began but now he can move smoothly through the ranks of Royalty, talk to the governors of his own sport and even be Britain’s special representative who helped win the Olympic Games for London.

I bet he never thought when he first entered Old Trafford as a teenager that he would join the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Seb Coe, head of the Olympic bid committee, to win over the organisers and beat the favourites France for the Games.

Now he has retired, leaving a huge photographic gap on the front pages, but assured of a job with the FA and, no doubt, as much advertising, commercial and sports work as he can handle. Lucky Becks with a charming and talented wife — the former Spice Girl — and kids who, he says, have been taught to behave properly wherever they are and, so I read, £165m in the bank.

There may be a knighthood in the offing — on the Queen’s official birthday I guess — and even greater honours for the future. Did he dream of that in his teens. I think not.

We’ll miss him and Fergie and Mancini and Strauss but it is good to know they are healthy and wealthy and wise and likely to be so for quite a while.